Tucked away on Greene Street in Lower Manhattan is a storefront whose late-19th century cast-iron facade— complete with ornate Corinthian columns drenched in a rich cream color—juxtaposes against bold, red branding. This cohesion of contemporary design and historic architecture serves as the backdrop for Italian lighting brand Foscarini’s flagship New York showroom. Foscarini co-founder and president Carlo Urbinati told AN that the brand’s stateside expansion into SoHo nearly a decade ago was something of a no-brainer. “Foscarini has been in New York since 2013, when SoHo was the premiere neighborhood dedicated to innovative design and experiences,” he said. “It was, and still is, in my opinion, the international destination for design, art, culture, and architecture.” Although the primary function of the current space, designed by architect Ferruccio Laviani in 2017, is to showcase Foscarini’s product range, now through May 20th, it is doubling as an exhibition space for a special artistic presentation dubbed VITE (Italian for “lives”). Featuring evocative photography by artist Gianluca Vassallo and written works by Flavio Soriga, VITE provides showroom visitors with intimate glimpses into the private domestic settings that each lamp included in the exhibition occupies.
With VITE, Urbinati wanted to bring the intimacy and comfort of “home” in several global cities to the brand’s SoHo storefront. As stated in a press release for VITE, “visitors are taken through the various scenes, as they are transported inside real homes in Copenhagen, New York, Naples, and Shanghai.” The central focus, as Foscarini explained, is “not the products but the human beings, leaving viewers to gaze into and roam around the private spaces of individuals.”
Since Foscarini was first established on the Venetian island of Murano in 1981, Urbinati’s focus has been to produce exquisite examples of lighting design through collaborations with the world’s brightest designers. Among the many designers showcased at the latest iteration of VITE are Patricia Urquiola, Eliana Gerotto, Eugenio Gargioni, and Rodolfo Dordoni.
Although VITE can be viewed virtually by those who are not able to make it to Foscarini’s SoHo showroom in person, Urbinati shared with AN his goals for staging an in-person exhibition at a time when pandemic restrictions are loosening (for now) and people begin to resume old habits and routines. “As we see the world beginning to return to some sort of normalcy, the SoHo showroom is reinventing new tangible, thought-provoking experiences,” he said. “We see the in-person element of this space deepening the dialogue with the city and becoming a point of reference for a wider audience of design enthusiasts.”